Women’s 2021 Rugby World Cup Qualifications
Between 18 September and the 16 October 2021, all eyes will be on New Zealand as it hosts the ninth-ever women’s Rugby World Cup. Whangarei and Auckland will stage the fixtures. New Zealand will be the first country in the Southern Hemisphere to host the women’s RWC. Preparations are in full swing as the nation strives to match the high standards it set when it staged the men’s 2011 RWC.
The 2021 RWC is notable for the fact it is the first time a women’s Rugby World Cup has not included “Women” in its title. Instead, it has a gender-neutral name. World Rugby announced that it dropped the word to promote gender equality and equal brand advertising in international rugby. The organisation also hopes the move will reduce the bias towards men’s rugby.
Qualifiers for the Women’s 2021 RWC
Twelve countries will be playing in the 2021 RWC, and nine have already qualified.
According to the Rugby World Cup official site, the qualifiers so far are:
- South Africa
- United States
- New Zealand
New Zealand won the women’s Rugby World Cup in 2017. This meant they automatically qualified for 2021 and will defend their title on home ground. Runner-ups who finished in the top seven in the 2017 RWC were also automatic qualifiers.
This leaves five remaining spaces for new Rugby World Cup qualifiers. World Rugby’s new qualification pathway will determine who these are. This pathway includes a repechage tournament, a first for the women’s RWC.
The qualification pathway has been underway since 2019. Countries have been competing in various regional tournaments that double as qualifiers for the 2021 RWC. Winners of some of these tournaments qualify directly to play in 2021. However, winners from certain countries will have to go through one or two more stages to qualify. The repechage is one of these stages.
Qualifier Tournaments by Region and How They Work:
The 2019 Rugby Africa Women’s Cup served as the 2021 RWC qualifier. South Africa played Kenya in this fixture and won. This earned them a seat for 2021.
Fiji beat Samoa in the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship 2019. This means they will be representing the Oceania region in 2021.
The 2020 Rugby Europe women’s championship winner will face Italy, Scotland and Ireland in Europe’s first standalone qualification tournament. The winner of this competition will qualify for a place in the World Cup.
A match between Colombia and Brazil determined who would secure a place in the repechage tournament. Colombia defeated Brazil in the match 23-19.
The 2020 Asia Rugby Women’s Championship in Hong Kong will determine which team represents Asia in the 2021 RWC. The winners will qualify directly for the World Cup. The ARWC was due to happen earlier this year, but organisers postponed it due to COVID-19 concerns. It is not certain when it will take place.
The Repechage Tournament
This tournament will include the runners-up from the Oceania, Europe and Asia regions, as well as Kenya and Colombia. The repechage will determine the final team to qualify for the 2021 Rugby World Cup. The organisers are yet to confirm the dates.
The Rugby World Cup has a New and Improved Format for 2021
World Rugby has changed the format of the RWC to improve the experience for both fans and teams. The revised format includes a new match schedule which the players are sure to love – it gives more time between fixtures than normal. This will give teams more downtime as well as practice time. The new format also includes a quarter-final stage, which World Rugby hasn’t included in previous women’s RWCs. Team squads will also have 30 players, a change from the usual 28 players that make up women’s RWC squads.
The 2021 RWC organisers hope that the tournament will be even more of a boost for women’s rugby. Global interest in women’s rugby is on the up and up. It skyrocketed after the 2017 Rugby World Cup. The spectacle had a reach of 70 million over the whole tournament as well as 45 million video views of fixtures.
The qualification for the men’s 2023 Rugby World Cup in France is also currently taking place with the Springboks already being qualified. Keep an eye out for the 2021 Rugby World Cup draw in November 2020.